Summer 2016

  • More to Choose op-ed published July 30th, 2016 by ACRE policy analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“Competition improves academic outcomes of students and schools, saves taxpayers money, reduces segregation in schools and improves students’ civic values.”

ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu praises Milton Friedman’s policy recommendation of allowing K – 12 students to use state funded education vouchers to attend schools of their own choice rather than a geographic mandate. School choice not only gives students the ability to decide which schools are right for their individual tastes but also creates competition that incentivizes schools to improve.

Currently Arkansas has a limited school choice menu: we currently allow some district transfers, charter school options, homeschooling, and a limited voucher program for special needs and military dependent students. Arkansas has made strides for choice, but we still have room to grow. Currently there is an arbitrary three percent cap imposed on inter-district transfers. The state has also limited the number of open enrollment charter schools to 29, a limit that is much too low for demand as the e-stem charter school in Little Rock had 6,000 students on their waiting list as of February 2016.

We should continue to expand our school choice options as evidence shows that doing so improves academic outcomes of students and schools, saves taxpayers money, reduces segregation and improves students’ civic values.

Allowing myths to dictate public policy puts Arkansas on a dangerous path. Issuing tax breaks and subsidies despite empirical evidence of their harms will not improve the state’s economy.”

Policy analyst Jacob Bundrick weighs the benefits of corporate welfare; he says that, despite common economic myths, these programs make the state worse off. He points out the abundance of studies that find no clear correlation between economic development programs and economic activity. This is due to a number of factors. As the tax revenue has to be accommodated, often taxes are raised on other sources of income. At the same time, some companies that receive corporate welfare would have chosen Arkansas as the home for their business with or without the incentives offered. In such instances, businesses receive tax payer handouts for simply being politically favored. All of these outcomes create a loss for the community.

Bundrick makes the point that government officials do not have the ability to steer the economy in ways better than the free market. Bundrick says we should therefore not let policy operate off of economic myths; we should reform Arkansas’s complex and out of date tax code to attract commerce instead.